The Hill: Senators introduce bill to help businesses with trade complaints

A bipartisan pair of senators on Wednesday are proposing the creation of a task force within the Commerce Department that would help small- and medium-sized businesses better fight unfair trade practices.

Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) are teaming up on legislation that would help businesses that typically lack enough resources to file cases against alleged trade violators.

The permanent task force would fall under the the International Trade Administration (ITA) at Commerce, and would be tasked with identifying and investigating trade violations such as dumping and recommending investigations with a focus on smaller businesses.

“Smaller companies with limited resources may not have the ability to identify trade violations, or worse, they fear retaliation from governments in foreign markets where they sell their products,” Peters said.

Peters said businesses in his state “often face unfair competition from foreign companies that flood American markets with artificially cheaper goods.”

“This bipartisan bill will ensure American manufacturers and agricultural producers can compete on a level playing field,” he said.

Peters argues that specialty agricultural producers, parts manufacturers and paper goods producers are the businesses hit hardest by unfair trade practices.

Phil Korson, president of Cherry Marketing Institute, expressed support for the efforts, saying that small farmers in Michigan's cherry industry “simply do not have the resources to defend against unfair trade practices from other countries.”

Trump expressed support for the Peters-Burr measure during a trade meeting on Tuesday at the White House.

“This bill will help put small and medium-sized business on a more level playing field against unfair imports,” Burr said.

In 2016, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended the creation of the office to identify and pursue antidumping and countervailing duty cases to improve the U.S. response to unfair trade practices by China.

"For too long, the burden has been on the private sector to have our trade laws enforced," said Michael Wessel, one of that board's commissioners, in a statement.

"Our companies are essentially being forced to compete with countries and their predatory policies,” Wessel said.

Under current law, Commerce has the authority to self-initiate investigations into dumping and subsidies, but rarely uses the authority, according to the lawmakers.

Most of the investigations start only after companies or industry representatives file formal complaints.

By:  Vicki Needham
Source: The Hill